CLOWN! THERE’S CLOWNS OVER THERE. CLOWNS!
Hear the word in your head and what image springs to mind? Do you have circus and red noses appear before you? Or is it the Marceau-like French clowning fraternity. Healers in frightwigs and doctor’s coats? Or are you Coulrophobic and recoil from the thought? Whatever associations interpolate with the word, I bet it’s big. Big and broad. And probably loud.
That is not what is going on at Old 505 theatre at the moment. RUDY AND CUTHBERT are clowns of a different water. No squirting flowers here. Bonded together by a shared suit, the characters are innocents unleashed. Ostensibly in front of us to perform that classic of naturalism, 12 ANGRY MEN, Rudy (Toby Blome: he wears the suitcoat) and Cuthbert (Zelman Cressey-Gladwin: he wears the pants) will create a world of love, empathy and hope that lifts the spirits engendering a joyous calm to take out into the storm.
From the first sequence, these lads know how to get applause and, not co-incidentally, applause that rapports. One invests in them from the off. The two artists have facial expressions that are just delicious in emotional reach, their physicality is open and their spare use of dialogue impressively restrained. They are comic without fripperies, it’s a very funny show. Add to this, Chaplinesque impulses and extraordinary physical control, and RUDY AND CUTHBERT is a crafted, succinct yet varied work. Short, less than 50 minutes, but breathtaking in its artistry.
This is the art of clowning by nanometres. Nothing is loose, nothing moves without intent and even the props are honed by rehearsal to behave themselves. None of the sequences go too long and each elides gracefully into the next, giving a stream-of-consciousness story that sweeps one along … without overwhelming with an intellectualizing narrative. But, if one were inclined, I am, it’s not all right-brained engagement.
Those aforementioned, traditional clowns are referenced in the show, Marcel is there in the cups and the sweet torch song. There’s a foam nose, there’s Godot in the boots and the hat. Plus the ‘fail first to show how hard it is’ and ‘alley-oop … preeeezent’ of the sawdust centre ring is cleverly insinuated. Gently, though. And there’s the magic trick that narrows the wide stage down until you see exactly what they want you to see, undistracted and unaware of the craft. It’s a small venue and such a delight to be close to these performers to see a pinky finger move majestically or a smiley light bulb idea that curls up from the toes to show in the eyebrows.
See RUDY AND CUTHBERT now in the intimate surrounds of Old 505 Theatre, Newtown [Facebook] where it is playing a short season as part of their FRESHWORKS program. It will charm you into the best mood you have felt all day.
(Director: Ellen Cressey, Creative Consultant: Neill Gladwin)